Board of Health discusses planned Russell Street development

by Karina Coombs

Asked by the Planning Board to review the plans for a proposed 16-unit senior residential open space development at 81 Russell Street, the Board of Health (BOH) spoke informally with key players during its March 25 meeting. George Dimakarakos represented the engineering firm Stamski and McNary and was joined by developer Brendon Giblin and consultant Jay Cohen, both of Brendon Properties. 

BOH Chair Bill Risso had asked the group to appear to discuss some issues brought up by BOH consultant Rob Frado in concluding his review of the preliminary subdivision plan drafted by Stamski and McNary. In his letter to the board, Frado noted that the absence of any observation hole at a depth of ten feet indicated, “either ledge or very large, immovable boulders,” otherwise referred to as “refusal.” He indicated that one of the test holes hit refusal at only three feet, which led him to conclude that no part of the leaching field should be placed on or near it. Frado also found that the location of the test holes might not be within “the final footprint of the proposed leaching areas.” This would require additional testing for the final septic system design. He also added that the plans should indicate a disposal site in case wood-waste disposal occurs on the property. 

However, in general, Frado found that “the depth of soils and percolation tests show that this development should likely support a subsurface sewage disposal system to service this facility.”

Dimakarakos stressed that the project was still in front of the Planning Board and as such, he was not prepared to make a formal presentation to the BOH. He acknowledged receipt of Frado’s letter and reiterated its summary that the site had suitable soils for a system. Dimakarakos added that they would address Frado’s concerns about testing locations if the BOH had any questions once they got to that stage of development. 

Health Agent Linda Fantasia echoed Frado’s concern about the test location, noting that if the leaching field were moved away from the buildings it might be too close to buffer zones. Dimakarakos explained that they were meeting with the Conservation Commission to determine wetland delineations. Fantasia also explained that the developer would need escrow accounts set up and funded similar to those established by the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) for the Benfield project. The Benfield accounts provide funds for septic system repairs and for a full system replacement within ten years. Dimakarakos asked the board for a copy of their financial agreement with Benfield.

How to enforce bedroom limit?

Fantasia also expressed her concern that a number of other large rooms in each unit could be used as additional bedrooms. She explained that a first-floor study was large enough to be a third bedroom as was a second floor “craft” room. Some units also have an option for a finished basement game room. The proposed septic system is based on two-bedroom units. Additional bedrooms would exceed the system’s design flow capacity of 5,280 gallons per day. 

Giblin explained that the property would be for residents 55 and older with no residents under the age of 18. He added that individual deeds would define the structures as only having two bedrooms. Each resident would also sign an agreement that would limit the duration of a visit by an adult child to no more than three months.

BOH member Cathy Galligan explained that the board had a responsibility to make sure that the system had “a long and healthy life” because it is communal. She questioned how the developer would ensure the additional rooms would not be used as bedrooms and agreements would not be ignored. Dimakarakos explained that the group was not prepared to address those issues, but would make it part of their formal presentation at a later date. ∆